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The City Journals

West Valley City joins legislation’s energy efficiency goal by 2030, for now

Jan 13, 2020 02:26PM ● By Travis Barton

Solar panels absorb sunlight as a source of energy. (Photo by Mariana Proenca)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

In a unanimous vote, the West Valley City Council approved a resolution supporting the increase of energy renewable resources on Dec. 17. The vote will see West Valley City join the clean energy program adopted by the Utah Legislature during 2019’s General Session, known as House Bill 411.

The bill, known as the Community Renewable Energy Act, calls for Utah cities who join the program to adopt zero net energy emissions by 2030. 

The unanimous vote was met with applause from a dozen or so members of the public, who had lobbied the council for weeks to approve the resolution that to them would signal the city’s intent for cleaner air. 

“This will allow me to have cleaner energy supplying my home,” said resident Chris Bell. “For everyone that’s here…we’re here for dreams. We aspire to something better.” 

Rep. Elizabeth Weight, who cosponsored the bill, told the city council she sees the bill as “an element of pride for the youth in the city” and their future. 

Another resident, Josh Cameron, said the bill builds a “field of dreams” strategy where it “lets people know we’re ready to have a serious conversation” and an “act of team human solidarity.” 

“All hands on deck,” he said. 

The resolution laid out the city’s goal of achieving zero net energy emissions by 2030, its intent to seek energy efficiency through other future actions and encourage residents to improve energy efficiencies within their own households. 

While the resolution stated the city’s plans, it also pointed out what the city is already doing to improve energy efficiency. Noting its participation in the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Act and how its installed more efficient equipment, appliances, insulation and lighting at City Hall, Maverik Center and other city facilities. 

The incoming Soleil Technology Park will use solar and other renewable sources to provide nearly all of its energy needs for its five buildings and 550,000 square feet (see story on page 4).

“For West Valley, this is more than a dream, we’re taking action,” said Mayor Ron Bigelow. 

What participation in the program does remains to be seen. The program runs through Rocky Mountain Power who partnered along with Summit County, Salt Lake City, Park City, Office of Consumer Services and Division of Public Utilities to help develop the legislation. Rocky Mountain Power will manage the process for developing renewable energy resources while the Utah Public Service Commission is for the rules, creation and administration of the program. 

Passing the resolution does not automatically bind West Valley City to opt into the program. It does mean the city, among others, will eventually need to enter into an interlocal agreement after negotiations on rates and terms with Rocky Mountain Power. Those rates, city officials said, are hard to forecast, but could have a major impact on their return on investment. 

The program, is meant to have long term impacts, making energy cheaper in the future. 

If city officials decide to sign a binding contract sometime in 2020 and pass an ordinance to officially join the program, all Rocky Mountain Power customers in the city would be automatically enrolled in the program with the ability to opt out within two billing cycles. 

City officials still have concerns such as the potential limits the program places on the city from undertaking its own sustainability measures. Another aspect city staff reminded the council of was net zero emissions means the amount of renewable energy being used offsets the other emissions rather than being 100% green. 

Part of the passed resolution states the city’s intent to explore other initiatives to accomplish renewable energy goals. 

Councilman Jake Fitisemanu Jr. said in a December study meeting discussion on the subject that it’s a “comfortably uncomfortable situation.”

“Whether it’s this route or another route, our residents want it,” he said. “We should still take an aggressive approach (regardless of the resolution) so residents know we are doing something.”

Councilman Lars Nordfelt said during a study meeting that while the city is working on making its facilities more energy efficient, that doesn’t mean residents are able to do so in their homes. 

“They want to do this, or at least give them the option,” he said.